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BOSTON 200 NEIGHBORHOOD HISTORY SERIES
Henry Adams, the nineteenth
tury philosopher, said that the hi
of America is not the history of I
few, but the history of the many
people of Boston's neighborhood:
accepted the challenge of Adam
statement to produce "people's
tories" of their own communities
Hundreds of Bostonians formed
mittees in each of fifteen neighbo
of the city, volunteering their tin
the past year and a half to resea
in libraries, search for photograj
produce questionnaires, transcri
tapes, assist in writing and editi:
most important, act as interview
and subjects of "oral history" res «
These booklets are not tradition
textbook histories, and we have :
tempted to cull a statistical sam; N
We have simply talked with ourj
neighbors, people who remembc
sometimes with fondness, someti
with regret, but always with wis
For each of us has his or her ow
story to tell, and these stories ar
to the development of our neigh
hoods and our city.
© 1976, The Boston 200 Corpor
Boston 200 is the city's official progr
to observe the Bicentennial of the
American Revolution from April igy
through December igj6.
Kevin H. White, Mayor
Katharine D. Kane,
President, The Boston 200 Corporc
1 Beacon Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02108
ime towns in our commonwealth, older and doubtless wiser
an we, looked on and with mingled feelings of amusement
id dismay, saw our young Samson shake his locks . . . But
ough earnest and impetuous, we were not idiotic. We had an
id to reach and bent towards it.
— The Rev. Perley B. Davis in 1888 on the 20th
anniversary of the incorporation of Hyde Park.
RoNEERS settled Hyde Park; the kind with free
>irits and courage to tame the wilderness. They came
1 the mid- 1 800s to the pine forest beside the Mother
rook at the same time kindred souls were pressing
estvvard to chart the unknown plains. The Hyde
ark homesteaders were a mere nine miles from the
oston State House, but, like their western counter-
irts, they were a world away.
Today the world has shrunk. The sprawling corn-
unity, comprising Boston's most distant neighbor-
ed, is inhabited largely by office workers, profes-
}nals and civil servants (including many policemen
id firefighters) who commute daily to downtown jobs.
The area's residents return at night to Cape Cod
Houses and Garrison Colonials along Hyde Park
Avenue and River Street, duplexes and triple-deckers
in Readville and Sunnyside, and a sprinkling of fine
mansions on Fairmount Hill.
The citizens of Hyde Park, which is bounded by
Dedham and the Stony Brook Reservation on the west
and the Blue Hills of Milton on the east, have mixed
feelings about their relationship with Boston. Some
argue their community has suffered neglect since an-
nexation to Boston in 191 2. Thirteen years ago, during
the controversy over construction of the Southwest
Expressway, there was a movement to secede, a move-
ment which was revived in 1974 over the issue of court
ordered busing of school children.
Though the history of Hyde Park, dating from the
Civil War era rather than colonial times, is over 100
years shorter than that of most Bay State cities and
towns, it does not lack for drama. During the second
half of the 19th century, the community was home for
fiery abolitionists and suffragettes, notably, the Grimke
sisters, Angelina and Sarah. At Camp Meigs in Read^,
ville, the first black regiment mustered for the Civil
War was trained. A bas-relief by Augustus Saint-
Gaudens commemorating Colonel Robert Gould
x'ont cover: Workers at the F. W. Darling Co., ca. i8go
iside cover: Angelina Grimke, ardent abolitionist and feminist
Shaw and the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Regiment
stands opposite the State House.
Before 1850, there was no Hyde Park — only five
Irumlins, (hills formed by the glaciers) covered with
ligh bush blueberries, pines and birches. A scattering
)f farmhouses, no more than 10, and several mills, in-
:luding a cotton mill owned by James Read, and the
iumner Paper Mill, dotted the landscape near the
•iver. An early historian, Edmund Davis, describes
iumner Hall, built in 1 790 for William Sumner, as an
mpressive edifice "in the midst of well-kept grounds
ind fine orchards." There was also the "elegant,
French cottage" of Congressman William S. Damrell,
'an intense anti-slavery man, bold and fearless."
NTearby was Muddy Pond Woods, where, according to
Davis, "immersed in this maze of sylvan delights one
lardly realizes he is within a few miles of metropolitan
In 1847 Henry Grew, a Boston dry goods importer,
took a holiday excursion to the area with his wife. He
found the countryside so compelling, he remained to
build a house. "We stopped in the woods," said Grew,
'and strolling about unexpectedly came to a point
■vhere we were very much pleased with the view of the
Blue Hills and the valley in between. "Of his new home,
3rew said, "We are almost literally surrounded by
voods. My friends in Boston are much surprised at my
joing to such a wild and lonely place."
The loneliness prevailed until 10 years later when
1 23-year-old land developer from Orange, New
Hampshire appeared on the scene. Alpheus P. Blake
ind his Twenty Associates are credited with founding
Hyde Park on Fairmount Hill, though it was not until
\pril 28, 1868 that the town was officially incorpo-
•ated. The community was named after London's
Hyde Park by an Englishman, the Rev. Henry Lyman,
>ne of Hyde Park's earliest settlers.
Blake assembled a varied group to further his
levelopment scheme and plans for the experimental
subdivision, probably one of the first in the country,
were hatched in a Boston boarding house. Among the
associates were a blacksmith, a sea captain, a tailor, a
fruit dealer, a milliner and a writing master. "They
bought 100 acres at $200 an acre extending from what
is Prospect Street all the way down to Neponset River,"
explained Adrian Eckberg in a recent presentation to a
fifth grade class at the Henry Grew School. "They
bought it from two farmers who lived on Brush Hill
Road in Milton. The architect drew up a central plan
so all 20 houses would be alike. They found it was more
economical to have one set of plans for the carpenters
and to buy materials for all 20 houses at once."
The construction project did not go smoothly.
Even before building began, several of the original
partners became discouraged and pulled out after a
tour of the site for which they were forced to walk two
miles from Mattapan. The wildness of the terrain and
the steepness of the hill made hauling lumber by team
from Milton extremely difficult and at one point the
project was almost abandoned. An account in an 1886
issue of the Norfolk County Gazette tells how several
families spent their first winter in unfinished homes.
They shielded themselves against the cold by wearing
overcoats to bed. "They were next to perishing," said
the account. "When the ground was not frozen, the
mud was ankle deep."
The end of the Civil War spurred rapid-fire growth
in the area and by 1867 lot prices were quadrupling in
a few weeks time. The influx of new settlers brought
rumblings for incorporation as an independent town.
Residents complained of having no fire department, no
street lights, poor schools and ungraded roads "having
for their pavement stumps and roots of trees." School
was held in halls, private houses and soldiers' barracks.
The battle over incorporation was "hot and furi-
ous" according to historian Edmund Davis. The resi-
dents of Brush Hill Road, today noted for its fine es-
tates and mansions, fought stubbornly to remain in
Board of Selectmen of
the Town of Hyde Park, 186
Milton. In the end a compromise was reached and
Hyde Park took 1 300 acres from Dorchester, 800 from
Dcdham and 700 from Milton, which was allowed to
keep Brush Hill Road.
Incorporation day was marked by fireworks, a 100
gun salute and a rainbow at sunset. Hyde Park's in-
dustry at that time consisted of a cotton mill, a woolen
mill, a paper mill, a needle factory, an iron works and
and car shops.
"We have far more internal vitality than pertains
to most towns so near a great metropolis. We are some-
thing more than a mere sleeping room to Boston,"
said the Rev. Perley B. Davis in a speech at the town's
20th anniverary celebration, in 1888.
Part of this vitality stemmed from a group of orig-
inal thinkers who cultivated a uniquely modern social
and literary consciousness in the community. One o
the most prominent of this breed was a New Hamp I
shire woman named Mehitable Sunderland. Thougl
she did not come to Hyde Park until her fiftieth year
after her three daughters were grown, she lived to givt I
44 years of service to the community. Mehitable wa;
Hyde Park's first doctor and an activist in women
rights and black rights. She moved to the town wit!
her daughter and son-in-law in 1857, the year afte:
the Twenty Associates began their subdivision.
Soon after her arrival Mehitable struck out on hei
own, buying land on Williams Avenue for Si 00. Sh<, ;he
eventually built 16 houses and rented some of them t( it
to Negroes. "She acutely felt the plight of Negroes anc
realized the difficulties they faced in obtaining suitable I
housing," explained Elizabeth Freeman in a lecturtfn
Defore a Hyde Park school group. "She was also one of
:hose old time Methodists who thought cards were the
nvention of the devil. Every Friday night she hitched
ap her horse and buggy and went around to collect the
-ents. If she found any evidence of card playing, the
:enant was evicted."
A newspaper account of the period describes Me-
litable's medical talents: "Her plaid hood and gray
;loak were a welcome sight where the raging fever or
the scarlet spots of measles held sway. Nor could even
:hat tabooed horror, smallpox, frighten this intrepid,
sympathizing woman. On Fairmount alone, she heard
:he first cries of 50 little pairs of lungs and in the coun-
:ry roundabout she welcomed probably 300 new cit-
zens into the world. Her practice extended to Dor-
;hester, Dedham and Milton."
On March 7, 1870, Mehitable led a band of 42
-iyde Park women and their male escorts in a sym-
bolic act which received nationwide notoriety. Car-
ving bouquets of flowers, the protestors marched
hrough a driving snowstorm to the town polling place
vhere the ladies dropped their ballots into a special
eceptacle. Historian Davis notes it was "feared that
inmanly measures might be adopted" to stop women,
iowever, town moderator Sylvanus Cobb, Jr., a nov-
list, "produced calm on the floor . . . and the ladies
dvanced without further molestation." It was the first
uffrage demonstration in Massachusetts and a cata-
yst for the many which were later staged across the
Hyde Park women were given the right to vote for
town committee member long before there was gen-
ral women's suffrage, according to Elizabeth Free-
nan. Mehitable, she said, never missed casting her bal-
3t even when in her nineties. During her last years,
tie lived with her granddaughter, Ada Cooper Sheehy
t 60 Central Avenue. "She was able to be up and
bout." said Mrs. Freeman, "and was often seen
/alking on the veranda in nice weather." At her death
1 1 90 1 she was Hyde Park's oldest resident.
Mehitable was not the only freedom fighter in
Hyde Park; there were the famous Grimke sisters and
Angelina Grimke's husband, Theodore Weld. The
Grimkes were the daughters of a wealthy South Caro-
lina judge and planter and had experienced slavery
first hand during their childhood. Sarah once wrote of
seeing "a Human head stuck up high on a pole" and a
runaway punished by having to wear a heavy iron col-
lar with three long prongs. The runaway's front tooth
had been extracted to mark her and she had received a
The sisters later moved north where they became
Quakers and outspoken abolitionists. In 1838, a full 10
years before the Seneca Falls Convention,* Angelina
won a place in history as the first American woman to
address a legislative body. Her appearance at the Bos-
ton State House drew huge crowds anxious to see the
woman who had been called "devil-ina" in the news-
papers and who had been castigated in a pastoral letter
from the Council on Congregational Ministers. Pre-
senting an anti-slavery petition signed by 20,000 wom-
en, Angelina skillfully appealed for the liberation of
both slaves and females.
"I stand before you as a moral being," she de-
clared. "And as a moral being I feel that I owe it to the
suffering slave and to the deluded master, to my coun-
try and to the world, to do all that I can to overturn a
system of complicated crimes built upon the broken
hearts and prostrate bodies of my countrymen in
chains and cemented by the blood, sweat and tears of
my sisters in bonds."
Addressing herself to the plight of women, she de-
manded of the largely-male audience, "Are we aliens
because we are mothers, wives and daughters of a
mighty people? Have women no country? No interests
staked in the public weal?"
The Grimkes and Weld, who like the sisters was an
ardent abolitionist, did not settle in Hyde Park until
many years later when their youthful fervor had
cooled. They lived quietly there in the years following
where women organized to demand rights as citizens.
on Water Street, i8g$
he Civil War, tending to local affairs and leaving the
trenuous public fight to others. The sisters never grew
oo old, however, to assist the cause they so dearly
oved, and they participated in the 1870 suffrage dem-
mstration and door-to-door petition drives.
Frequent visitors at their home were William Lloyd
iarrison, John Greenleaf Whittier and Henry Wads-
vorth Longfellow. Weld was prominent in Hyde Park
ommunity affairs, organizing the local Women's
iuffrage League in 1887. He served as a member of the
acal school committee and as an officer of the town,
nd helped found Hyde Park's free public library.
3 Sarah, who never married, died at 81 in 1873. Her
V ister followed her six years later. Weld lived on to
» The late 1 800s marked a period of literary flour-
Jj hing in Hyde Park. It was then that the "sunset
painter" John J. Enneking had his studio in the town
and that Mrs. J. Wentworth Payson hosted literary
evenings at her home at 136 Fairmount Avenue. Her
salon, called the Wentworth Club, was noted for its
"high intellectual tone" and for drawing literati,
artists and leading citizens from across the country and
Hyde Park grew rapidly during these years as
waves of Irish, Italian and Jewish immigrants flooded
into downtown Boston. Those seeking breathing room
looked to the outskirts and discovered Hyde Park.
From a village of 1,512 in 1887, the community had
ballooned to a population of 15,000 by 1912. The
attractions were the jobs in the mills along the Nepon-
set and the promise of country houses with grassy
yards to replace inner-city tenements on concrete
David Lasker, then a boy of ten, moved with his
family to Hyde Park in 1905. They gladly left a crowd-
ed East Boston.
"I remember my father saying to my mother,
'We're going to live in Hyde Park some day. I cer-
tainly don't want the children being brought up where
we are now.' So on the 25th of July, the moving van
drove up to the house at 1 1 6 Everett Street and started
packing for the long trip. We went down Southberry,
Atlantic Avenue, up Kneeland Street and Washington
Street, through Dudley Street, Hyde Park Avenue to
Oakland Street, down Harvard Street to Wood Ave-
nue to 22 Parker Street. There were only two houses
on the road in those days; 9 Parker Street where the
brink family lived — Mr. Brink was a farmer — and 22
Parker, which was a new house just built. My father
was overjoyed with the beauty of the whole area, th<
forest land, so different from East Boston . . . Every-
thing was woods."
Clem Norton's relatives settled in Hyde Park be-
cause they found work there. Norton, now 80, has beer
a Hyde Park resident all his life. A former city council-
man and member of the Boston School Committee, h<!
served for many years as superintendent of Common-*
"My ancestors were Irish Americans who came ii>
the 1 850s during the potato famine. They got a job in
the mill so they settled in Hyde Park. My grandmothei
and grandfather both had to work and my parents, too*
For small pay. But what attracted them to Hyde ParW
Advertisement for a Hyde Park box manufacturer, i8g$
JOHN T. ROBINSON & CO.,
Paper Box and Card Cutting Maclimery.
Power a xi) Foot Corner Cuttkhs. Kojiixsox's Patext Scorer.
IfOlXl) AND OVA I. CL'TTKKS. KoTARV STRIPPING Machines.
Notary Cahd Ci:ttkjss. Patent Ihox Frame Shears.
SPECIAL MACHINES MADE TO ORDER.
Shears rt'fncotl. Scoring Rolls Grouiul by Special Machinery.
ROBINSON SCORING AND CUTTING MACHINE.
The Sturtevant Blower Works
was the American Tool Machine Shop. I was born
right in front of it on Hyde Park Avenue.
"We had a lot of mills but they're all gone now.
The main car shops for the New Haven Railroad, the
first paper factory in the country on River Street —
they were all in Hyde Park."
Michael Walsh, a rare book dealer for Goodspccd's
on Beacon Street, was born in Ireland. His mother
came to America ahead of her children and sent for
them when she had raised the money.
"It's a story that's fairly common to the Irish," he
explains. "The Irish girls came out and worked as
maids and cooks with the Yankee families. Then, when
they thought they had saved enough money, they wen
home and got married. That was the case with m
mother. After her marriage and the birth of her fou
children, she returned to America and earned enou
money to bring her family over. We all came iroi
Ireland in 1902, right to Hyde Park."
Walsh's father "got a job the second day he was il
the country. They were putting in a sewer on Wooi
Avenue and it was all pick and shovel then. Ther!
weren't any steamshovels or things like that. He wen
out and got a pick and shovel job. He worked te
hours a day, six days a week, Si. 50 a day. And the
Twenty-four-year-old Joe Langille, who works in
Hyde Park's Little City Hall, is the grandson of an
Italian railroad man. "He came to America to work,"
says Langille. "He was an only child so he was kind of
free to go where he wanted. In Italy there was some
type of relationship between his family and my grand-
mother's family. He sent for her, saying, 'Come on
over; if I like you, I'll pay for your trip, if not, you
have to pay for it yourself.' She liked him. He was good
looking and she married him and they settled in Hyde
The community is today "quite a melting pot,"
according to George Merry, a lifelong resident who is
State House reporter for the Christian Science Moni-
tor. "We have a very large Italian population, a good
sized Irish population and all groups seem to get along.
There are some blacks and there are more coming in.
Of course, we've always had blacks in the community.
I've had some black friends whose family has lived
here since the 1870s. We also have a pretty large Polish
population and there is a Polish Catholic church. Re-
cently older people have moved here in large numbers
from the Mattapan section. Jewish people and others,
too. There are a lot more Jewish people now than there
used to be."
One of the oldest black families in Hyde Park was
that of James Monroe Trotter. "He was one of those
who trained at Fort Meigs with Robert Shaw," ex-
plains Nancy Hannan, a lawyer who is president of the
Hyde Park Historical Society. "He was the first col-
ored officer of the American army at anytime any
place. And it was because of his training at Fort Meigs
that he came and lived in Hyde Park. James Monroe
was a minister and then he entered the Union Army
and became a commissioned officer. When he left the
army, he returned to the ministry. His son, Leland,
was a newspaper editor who rose to national promi-
As different ethnic groups arrived in Hyde Park
they established their own churches. "It started out as
a Protestant town," says Mrs. Hannan. "The Twentj
Associates, the land developers, were mostly Protestant)
But shortly after they started, two or three of then
sold out. Then they sold to others and so forth. Very
early there were several Catholics in Hyde Park, whicl
was a little unusual for a small town. Then, of course
the mills brought in the Polish. The Jewish community
has never been large but we've always had one. Ir
1905 they formed a Jewish congregation and in 190^
they built their present synagogue. All the Protestanl
denominations are represented here."
Since the turn of the century, Hyde Park has beer
predominantly Catholic. There are currently five
Catholic churches in the community. Years ago, Hyde
Park had well-defined neighborhoods whose bounda-
ries were drawn on ethnic and religious lines. Today
the neighborhoods are less distinct.
"The Jewish area is what they call Stonybrook and
Georgetown," says Joe Langille. "Most of the people
there have moved from Mattapan. The Italian area is
Hyde Park Avenue, Glenwood Avenue and parts of
Readville. The Polish people are near their church.
The Irish are kind of all over, maybe mainly on Fair-
mount Hill. It used to be if you weren't Protestant
you never had a chance up there. Today it's changed.
"Fairmount is where the wealthy live — a few doc-
tors, many lawyers, executives of businesses. A lot of
city officials up there, too. The mayor's administrator
lives there and the top assistant district attorney. The
city licenser lives there and state Rep. Michael Feeney.
In fact, he lives next door to former City Treasurer
David Lasker has fond memories of "long coasting
episodes" on Fairmount Hill. "You'd get on a sled at
the top of Fairmount Hill and Prospect Street, and
coast all the way down to Fairmount Avenue across the
grade crossing to Pierce Street . . . The gate tender
would stand there in amazement, particularly when he
saw the train coming from Readville."
Lasker remembers other sections. "There was
of an elegant
Hyde Park Home, i8go
iugby, from Wood Avenue down through the wooded
ireas there. Oakland Street coming to Mattapan.
\blewood, Forest Hills, Readville, Climehurst and
Sunnyside. In those days, we youngsters knew every
ingle section. Today we live in Hyde Park and that's
\\ it is, Hyde Park."
"Sunnyside," muses Fr. David M. Burke, pastor
»f St. Pius X Church, "nobody seems to know the ori-
;in of that except that those of us who lived there felt
he sun always shone over there regardless of what was
tappening in the rest of Hyde Park. Then there was
^orriganville, named after a family that had lived
here for generations called Corrigan."
Readville is perhaps best known for its race track
hough during the Civil War it was distinguished as the
ite of Fort Meigs, training ground for the war's first
•lack regiment. "After the war, they broke up Camp
deigs," says Mrs. Irene Reynolds, a long-time resident
f the neighborhood. "The barracks were sold for a
oken fee and moved to different streets where people
lade houses out of them. In 1923 there were still
;veral houses left that had been built from the bar-
"The race track was still around too. It was a sulky
rack and I think the last sulky race was in 1924. Sulky
acing was really a society thing in those days. The
lite of Boston would come out.' They'd run special
trains from South Station and there was a spur off the
railroad so you could get off right at the track. I've
seen pictures of ladies with parasols and long skirts
getting off the train. The local people did not object to
the track. It was supposed to be the best turf track in
the country. Something really went out of the town
when it closed. When they started making the Sumner
Tunnel, they dumped all the clay on the turf and made
an automobile race track. The people protested very
strongly. It brought in a terrible crowd, a very dif-
ferent crowd. And there was dust . . . The original set-
tlers of Readville expected it to be sort of a bedroom
town to Boston, like Milton is today. But then they
built the Readville car shops and the locomotive shops
and that brought in a different group of people —
Even more so than in other communities, the rail-
road tracks were the dividing lines for the neighbor-
hoods of Hyde Park. "Fairmount and Sunnyside were
the other side of the tracks, so to speak," explains
George Merry. "Hyde Park is made an island, a com-
plete island, by railroad tracks. To one side of us be-
tween Mattapan and Hyde Park is the midland divi-
sion of the New York Central Railroad. That comes
along near the paper mill and goes along the river over
beyond River Street. It continues to Readville where
it joins with the main line of the New York Central
A postcard of the Readville Railroad tracks under a starry night
which goes from South Station to New York. Those
tracks are over on the other side of Hyde Park Av enue
and behind them is Sunnyside."
The railroad and street car lines have been a major
influence on Hyde Park's development, attracting both
industry and settlers. Easy and cheap access to down-
town Boston encouraged many to live in Hyde Park
and commute to the city for work.
"There's been a great change in the railroads,"
laments Daniel Driscoll, the former city treasurer.
"Wars ago the popular way to go to work was to go
down to the railroad station and get on a train. You'd
buy a book of eight tickets for a dollar. It was a lovely
way to ride. You'd always get a seat — unlike today-
going by rapid transit.
"Those were the days of the trolleys," remembers
80-year-old Michael Walsh. "They ran from Mattapa
to Brockton and from Mattapan to the Blue Hills. II f
was a lovely ride along Blue Hill Avenue in the opei
cars. That was the way we spent Sundays. There wasn'
much else for kids to do. If you had the fare, you\
take the open trolley right to Blue Hills to Houghton'
Pond, and swim. Then you'd walk up the Blue Hills 01
the pond side and come over the top and down an<
they had a band concert from four to six. They used t<
advertise a nickel from Mattapan to Arlingtoi
"There were a lot of trolley lines," agrees Georg< ei!
Merry. "Around the turn of the century they woulc 1
take you almost anywhere. Some went up River Stree D
all the way to Dedham and connected to other line
there. You could ride to Wcstwood which is quite i
listance from here. As late as 1948 we had streetcar
ines running from Hyde Park Avenue and Cleary
square to Forest Hills."
One Hyde Park to Boston commuter, according to
1 story told by Clem Norton, cleverly used his time on
he trolleys to win himself a job at the Boston Globe.
'The father of Clifton Bantry Carvery," says Norton,
'was a carpenter at the Chickering Piano factory
vhich is still over in the South End. He was born with
.n instinct for the newspaper business even though he
lad always worked as a carpenter. Each day he would
o through the train asking the passengers what was
lappening in their community. For years he sent
ttle handwritten notes to the Globe and for years he
ot no reply. Then one day he talked to a Dedham
anker who told him an employee had stolen a lot of
noney from the bank.
'"Well, what's going to happen,' he asked. 'Have
hey said anything yet?' The reply was 'No, they're
oing to meet tonight.' The father said nothing but
;ft work early and secretly listened in on the bank
leeting. When he had got the whole story, it was ten
t night, he rushed across the street, ordered a carriage
t Raymond's Carriage and hurried to the Globe.
. "They looked at the story and later when they
xind it was okay they asked Carvery what he did for a
ying. He said, 'I'm a carpenter in the Chickering
fiano Factory.' 'And how much do you make,' they
sked. He was then earning something like $12 a week,
p they said, 'We will give you $25 if you'll come with
s.' And he did."
Carvery later got his son, Clifton, a job at the Bos-
m Post. "Clifton was a very nice little man — didn't
eigh 100 pounds," remembers Norton. "Very deaf,
oor eyesight and he worked until four in the morning
n the Post. There were no electric cars coming to
[yde Park at that hour so he'd get as far as Forest
[ills, which was four miles away, and winter and sum-
ler, he'd run all the way to Hyde Park."
Today most Hyde Park residents depend on the
bus and rapid transit to get into Boston, according to
Father Burke. "They have one train a day," says Fr.
Burke. "But most people use the MBTA to Forest
Hills. When we were youngsters, you'd grab the street-
car in Cleary Square and be on Summer Street in half
an hour. Of course, the picture has changed. This is
one reason why people are thinking of getting out of
Hyde Park. And then, of course, the tax rate is so high
in the City of Boston."
Since Hyde Park voted to annex itself to Boston in
191 1 community residents have been debating the
merits of the move.
"A lot of people thought it was a mistake," says
Merry. "Even today, you will find some old time
people who feel they have not gotten the services we
would have gotten. The argument was that we would
get much better schools and everything would be bet-
ter. As a matter of fact, things didn't always work out
quite that well. For example, all the days I was attend-
ing public elementary school, the buildings were three
and four story wooden, fire-trap types. They're all
gone now, either burned down or replaced, but for a
long time, back into the mid-50's, we had the schools
that were in existence (and not new) when Boston an-
nexed Hyde Park. There were some people that didn't
"They felt as if this was a fringe of the city," agrees
Father Burke, "and that that was about all we got
from the city — fringe benefits. It was a sore spot for a
lot of older people. As a matter of fact, many people
are nowadays beginning to agitate to split the town
away from the city and return to a separate township.
They feel the town made responsible for itself would be
far better off economically, socially and culturally."
According to Mrs. Nancy Hannan, whose family
came to Hyde Park in the early 1930s, annexation
might not have occurred had the economic boost from
World War I come sooner. "There was a recession in
the country in 191 2 and the Hyde Park industries were
slowing down. But these industries would also pick up
again when the war came."
Clem Norton was 17 at the time of annexation. He
remembers, "there was a big, big fight and the various
religions got into it. The Protestant churches were
against joining Boston. The Catholic Church was for
it. And Hyde Park was predominantly Catholic."
A prime mover for annexation, according to David
Lasker, was Robert Bleakie, owner of the Bleakie &
Co. Woolen Mill. "He became interested in what he
called "greater goals for Hyde Park'" says Lasker,
"and he suggested a vote to annex. He said 'you have
so much to gain by it. You're going to be a part of a
metropolitan city.' And in 1910 Boston was the fourth
largest city in population in the United States.
"Many people were very much impressed at the
enthusiasm Bleakie had shown. So on the first Tuesday,
following the first Monday in November, 191 [, the
people voted 2 to 1 in favor of annexation. In spite of
the fact that Hyde Park was about Sio million in debt,
the City of Boston was willing to absorb it because of
the huge income in taxes it would get from the facto-
ries here. There were about 30 different kinds of facto-
ries here, so it was a boon to Boston. Mayor John F.
Fitzgerald in Waverly Hall promised the citizens of
Hyde Park the entire world. We were hopeful the
mayor and city fathers would keep their word, but all
we got was a municipal building in 1921."
There are some, however, among them Boston
Fireman Richard Baldwin, and his wife Lora, who
protest it would be foolhardy for Hyde Park to divorce
itself from Boston. "I think a lot of people don't realize
what is involved to actually start all over again," says
Mrs. Baldwin. "The taxes would rise because you
would have to re-establish every service we get from
the city, such as fire and police protection, schools,
every single thing and it would take years."
Hyde Park is today the largest precinct in Boston,
according to Father Burke. Its population numbers
about 38,000, he says. Industry, which took advantag
of water power from nearby rivers, was once an in
portant influence in the community but over the yeai
its significance has waned. In recent decades the bi
employer has been government.
"There are cotton mills, up at the old mill pond,
says Father Burke. "They no longer operate but man
of the people in years gone by — my older brothers, fc
example — they worked in those cotton mills. Toda
most people work in the city of Boston and commut
In. This is one reason people feel Hyde Park has lost i
individuality — because people are Boston-orientec
they just think in terms of Boston and not of their ow
town. There is not much industry left in Hyde Pari
Westinghouse still employs a large number. But ou
side of that, it is mostly into Boston. Many people wh
live here are on the Boston police force, or teach in th
city schools. I think people have civil service jobs be
cause of the security. There are also a lot of politicians
Clem Norton is one of those who jumped at th
chance to enter government. "The minute I got ol
enough, I took a civil service exam and landed as
clerk at Commonwealth Pier. That was in 191 3 and
was there for 40 years. I was head of the pier for year: he
Civil service jobs were better than working in th
factories. In the old days the factories didn't pay we
and with civil service you got a good pension."
After finishing grammar school, Norton worke
days and attended night school and eventually Suffol ]•;■■
Law School. He helped pay tuition for his two younge cr.
brothers who went to Harvard in dentistry and med
cine. One later became head of Boston State Hospital
"Those were the days," recalls Michael Walsh ^
"when more than half the kids that graduated fron ^
grammar school didn't go on to high school. The^
went to work. It was usually a case of having to worl ict .
to help support the family. I was the oldest. I neve ^
went to high school. None of my brothers and sister 5^
went to high school.
Walsh has been working since he was 1 5 at Gooc b
Tileston Hollingsworth Mills
now Diamond International
peed's, the Boston rare book store. He has been there
or 65 years and specializes in American history. "I got
he job," says Walsh, "because my mother took in
vashing and I used to cart the wash back and forth.
The man I did it for worked for Goodspeed, and they
leeded a boy."
George Merry graduated from high school in 1944.
iut during his junior and senior years, he worked after
chool at Sturtevant's, a fanblower and turbine facto-
y, bought in 1945 by Westinghouse.
"Quite a lot of us worked in the offices," he remem-
ers, "It was the thing to do then. We worked as office
oys, typists and clerks."
Besides Sturtevant's, there were a number of other
ictories along the river for water power. "Mother
rook," explains Merry, "was a manmade canal dug
jmetime in the middle 1800s. It connects the Charles
aver and the Neponset. In effect, everything inside
lat, is part of a great, big Boston island, because the
Neponset flows to Boston Harbor and the Charles flows
into the Neponset." Allis Chalmers and another old
factory burned down, according to Merry, but the
Tileston and Hollingsworth Paper Mill on River Street
is still in existence. "It makes a very fine quality paper
for calendars and is one of the really old operations in
Many youths trained for jobs in the mills and facto-
ries through a special five-year vocational course at
Hyde Park High School. "It's quite unique," says
Merry. "All during high school you spend part time
working in some type of industrial work and when you
get through with your schooling, you've also learned a
"The average income here," according to Father
Burke, "is in the $13,000 range, which today is not
very high. Many of our women work."
Hyde Park has been heavily Democratic for 50
years. "The town remained Republican until 1924
during the first Al Smith campaign," reports Daniel
Driscoll. "Then Frank Donohue, a superior court
judge, organized and registered a lot of people who
had not previously registered to vote. Most of them
happened to be Democrats, so he turned the town al-
most single handed from Republican to Democrat."
"There were always enough Hyde Park politi-
cians," says Walsh. "But they never got too much in
the way of favors because the number of votes here
didn"t count. It wasn't like South Boston and Charles-
town and Dorchester. But now it's the biggest ward in
the United States. State Representative Michael Paul
Feeney is the senior man in the legislature. He was
first elected in 1938 and he's been elected continuously
since. He knows his way around."'
"After he was elected," says Driscoll, "he wanted
something to do. I had heard three or four children
had drowned in the river so I said, 'Paul, why don't
you fence in the Neponset?' He got the bills through
and he lived on that politically for about 25 years. It
was a good idea and one that appealed to the legis-
"Feeney's somewhat of a conservative," says Mer-
ry, "He's not in a leadership position because when he
made his grab for power it was the wrong time and he
was passed over. But he's still very much there. He's
done a great deal for the community in terms of getting
traffic lights in and things like that, and he knows how
to make the political process work for him and the
Hyde Park is run by the mayor of the City of Bos-
ton and the City Council, of which one member,
Joseph Tierney, lives in Fairmount. The distance of
the government from the community has alienated
some people, according to Joe Langille. "They're kind
of just sitting back and wondering who their friend is,"
Police coverage is one example of the problem,
according to Father Burke. "The district here has to
cover West Roxbury and Roslindale and Hyde Park,
which is an enormous area. They don't have enoug
men to care for that size district. When we were kic
growing up, we needed only two policemen and vs
knew them inside out. This prevented a lot of prol
lems, because if they told us to get home in a hurry (
else they'd tell our fathers, we knew they knew 01
fathers and they'd do just that.
"Nowadays, of course, this isn't so. I would thir
a very small number of the police at this station ai
from the town. Therefore, they don't know the youn;
sters the way the policemen used to. The result is the
have more problems with the youngsters now, right i
the center of Cleary Square. We never had youngste
hanging around there before."
Cleary Square today has problems of its own, ac
cording to Father Burke. "In its day," he recalls, "
was a tremendous shopping area. People used to com
from Roslindale, from Milton and from Dedham t
shop. Now, of course, there are the shopping center
And shops in the square are continually closing up, c
opening for three months and then closing."
Kennedy's, one of Boston's major clothing chai
stores, began in Hyde Park. "Mr. Kennedy lived o
Central Avenue," explains Michael Walsh. "He star
ed with a pack and went from house to house. His stor
here was a fine store. Hardly anyone in Hyde Par
would think of going for clothes or shoes anywhet
else. If you lived outside of walking distance, he woul
give you carfare. It was rather a big point in thos
days, even if carfare was only a nickel."
Today, according to Langille, downtown Hyd >:
Park has "lost its community value somewhat" bd p
cause residents do most of their shopping and bankin
at the American Legion Highway shopping center, th il 1
Stop & Shop, the Dedham Mall and the Dedhar
Plaza. "They sleep here but they do their busine;
elsewhere," says Langille.
Father Burke talks of the small groceries whic
characterized the Hyde Park he grew up in. "We use Ide:
to love the neighborhood stores and the guys that ra
turn of the century
:hem because they were awfully good to us kids. They
cnew everybody in the area and were sort of like the
amily doctor. During the Depression, some of the
itore owners used to carry people. They did it willingly
because they knew the families and they knew that as
oon as the family had the money they would be paid.
Where could you do that today?"
The problems of urbanization, including the issue
)f forced busing to achieve racial integration, have
jrought more changes, according to Father Burke.
'As a result of all this, some people no longer have
heir roots firmly imbedded here, which means, of
:ourse, they don't care for the town as much as the
)lder people. For example, they can drive around
bleary Square and see this poor municipal building so
dilapidated now and it doesn't bother them at all. But
for those of us who still have a great deal of affection
for the town, it's very disturbing."
Joe Langille is confident, however, that the major-
ity of Hyde Park's young people are facing problems
realistically, and continue to identify with their neigh-
borhood. "Most of my friends from high school went
on to college or into the service or got married. Once
they're married and have families, most of them settle
back here. They really have a great deal of community
Father Burke sums up the feelings of many Hyde
"This has been home to me. It's still home, and I
have a great deal of fondness for it."
OUUT5 8c SHOES.
Kat ie Kenneally, project coordinator, editor-in-chief
Anne Millet, writer, copy editor
Susan Wick, interviewer, writer
Jan Coras ii, photographic editor
Eugene W a l l a c e, neighborhood coordinator
Harron Ellenson, director Boston 200
Michael and Winifred Bixler, typography
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: The experience and insights of many people contributed to the making
of this history. We would like to thank especially Nancy Hannan, president of the Hyde Park
Historical Society and chairman of the Hyde Park Bicentennial Committee, for many hours
of consultation; Margery Morgan Mason, Boston Architectural Center, designer of the neigh-
borhood exhibit; Mrs. Belle Levin and the staff of the Hyde Park Branch Library; Nadine
Hathaway; Mary Whalen, teacher, and the Advanced Fifth Grade Class at the Henry Grew
School; and the following participants: Lora Baldwin, Richard M. Baldwin, Sally Baler, Fr.
David M. Burke, Daniel Driscoll, Adrian E. Eckberg, Elizabeth Freeman, Frances Johnnene,
David Lasker, Joe Langille, George Merry, Virginia Morely, Helen Morgan, Clement Norton,
Irene Reynolds, Grace Sheridan, Monsignor Stanislaus Sypek, and Michael Walsh.
PHOTO CREDITS: Photographs were used courtesy of some of the people listed above and the
Print Department of the Boston Public Library, St. Adalbert's Church, the Boston Globe, the
Hyde Park Tribune, Diamond International Corporation, and the Schlesinger Library, Harvard
SPONSORS: The Boston 200 Neighborhood Histories Project was made possible through the
support of: The Blanchard Foundation, the Godfrey M. Hyams Trust, the Massachusetts
Bicentennial Commission, Workingmens Co-operative Bank, and the people of the City of
Boston enjoys an international reputation as the birthplace of our American
Revolution. Today, as the nation celebrates its 200th anniversary, that struggle
for freedom again draws attention to Boston. The heritage of Paul Revere, Sam
Adams, Faneuil Hall and Bunker Hill still fire our romantic imaginations.
But a heritage is more than a few great names or places — it is a culture,
social history and, above all, it is people. Here in Boston, one of our most cher-
ished traditions is a rich and varied neighborhood life. The history of our neigh-
borhood communities is a fascinating and genuinely American story — a story
of proud and ancient peoples and customs, preserved and at the same time
transformed by the American urban experience.
So to celebrate our nation's birthday we have undertaken to chronicle
Boston's neighborhood histories. Compiled largely from the oral accounts of
living Bostonians, these histories capture in vivid detail the breadth and depth
of our city's complex past. They remind us of the most important component
of Boston's heritage — people. which is, after all,what the Bicentennial is all about.
Kevin H. White, Mayor
Boston 200 u